Can Florida beat Florida State and win the SEC Championship Game with Treon Harris?

That’s a big question in Gainesville.

The Gators (8-1) won’t have to wait long to find out. In two weeks, they play host to Florida State. The next week, they’ll be in Atlanta to play the SEC West champion, perhaps for a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Though the Gators offense performed well with Harris at quarterback in games against LSU and Georgia, it struggled all day against Vanderbilt, needing a late 43-yard field goal to beat the last-place Commodores 9-7 at The Swamp.

Will Grier got much of the credit for the Gators’ offensive turnaround under Jim McElwain while leading Florida to a 6-0 start, including an impressive 38-10 victory over Ole Miss.

Though Florida has won three straight with Harris, the Gators’ passing game hasn’t been as sharp. The 5-foot-11 Harris is completing only 54.9 percent of his passes — 10 percent fewer than Grier.

On a positive note, the Gators are averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt under Harris, almost a yard more than they generated with Grier. Harris has thrown five touchdown passes with only one interception. He also offers big-play potential when he runs with the ball. Plus, he hasn’t made crucial mistakes.

If the Gators can get their diminutive quarterback out of the pocket where he can more easily find targets Demarcus Robinson, Jake McGee and Antonio Callaway, Harris can be effective throwing downfield.

Harris was particularly impressive against LSU less than a week after taking over when Grier was suspended. Throwing for 271 yards and two TDs, Harris guided the Gators to 28 points in a tight game in Baton Rouge.

It’s a small sample size, so a few plays can dramatically effect the stats.

For example, Harris made a tremendous effort, resulting in an 66-yard TD pass to Callaway against Georgia. Scrambling to his left, Harris forced Georgia defenders to come up to stop him, helping Callaway slip behind defenders down the sideline. Plus, he started the season with 14-for-19 proficiency including 252 yards, and 2 TDs against New Mexico State.

Can Harris, who completed fewer than half his passing attempts last year for an anemic Florida offense, throw the ball effectively against FSU and the West champion — most likely Alabama? Those two games will feature matchups of teams with defenses among the nation’s best.

Last week’s struggles against an outstanding Vanderbilt defense are cause for concern. Harris completed only 12 of 24 attempts for 158 yards and one interception. With the exception of the TD pass to Callaway, he wasn’t effective against Georgia, either.

Since taking over for Grier, Harris is only 37 for 75 for 584 yards with three TDs. On third down, the Gators have converted only 16 of 45 chances the last three weeks.

Florida’s ground game must improve. The Gators can’t afford third-and-long situations. Kelvin Taylor has averaged only 3.69 yards per carry behind a line lacking in depth and experience.

The Gators can’t expect dramatic improvement on the line. But if Harris and Callaway can supply big plays, the Gators’ suffocating defense will give them a chance against FSU and in a possible matchup with Alabama.

Harris wasn’t the Gators’ first option last year. He wasn’t the first option this season.

But with the Gators only two victories from a probable berth in the College Football Playoff, he’s the only option.

He’s shown signs that he’s up for the challenge. He will have to be if the Gators’ improbable title run is to continue.